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A question...

 Hey all, longtime lurker, first time posting. Hopefully this is considered On Topic, just figured this would be a good place to post this and get feedback. 

I'm an artist, fairly new to the furry community (couple of years now....2 or 3 maybe?) I also enjoy commissioning other artists, both because I enjoy their work and because it's fun and interesting to see another artist's take on your characters. The one thing that I have unfortunately noticed is that getting some artists to keep in touch, or to even return emails in regards to commissions that are in limbo, is pretty hard. Now this isn't all artists, I've had some amazing pieces done by Dark Natasha, for example, and they're always done when I'm told they will be. Plus, she's always been good about keeping me posted and sending a scan of the art before it's mailed. And the art is consistently the same high quality that got me to commission her in the first place, even when in the middle of a convention rush. I mention her by name only because I anticipate some response of "well some artists are more popular/busy than others, and so don't communicate via email, etc. as much." So I figure she's a decent example, being as every time I see her at cons she's swamped with work. I can only assume it's similar when she's at home working on stuff.

My question then, is how to be a good commissioner. What, as artists, do you all prefer to see from people commissioning you? What is a reasonable amount of time before it's understandable to get a bit peeved that your artist isn't getting back to you, of hasn't finished a piece? For example I currently have 3 sketch commissions I'm waiting on. One is going on 4 months now, and the artist has gone to other cons, done other art for people, and has not yet shown me anything other than a very rough character sketch, with none of the background. This only after emailing them every 2-3 weeks to touch base and see how things were going. Now for an inked or colored piece, I wouldn't bat at eye at this timeline. But a sketch? The second is a set of 2 sketches, small (5x7) Again, sent the money, waited, and watched as they posted a number of new pieces online. Not just 2-d art, but a number of more involved projects that they had just started. This was back on January 20th. I posted in their LJ, asking politely about it, and was asked what email I sent it to. I responded, both in LJ and through email. I have since not heard a word, and have received no responses. Sent another email. Nada.

So I honestly want to know....am I being a "BAD COMMISSIONER"? What is a reasonable amount of time to expect art from someone you've commissioned, when they are doing other projects (understandable, I do the same, I just finish the projects I've been paid for first) and offering other things for sale. I totally get that to be able to pay the bills, we all have to hustle and capitalize on sales when and where we can. I in no way expect the art I commission to be the only thing an artist works on. But am I in the wrong to expect that art is finished in the order which it is paid for, and that the artist in question at least gives a quick email letting me know that Auntie Matilda died, and they are behind in finishing up art because they had to go to her funeral? I really want to avoid becoming one of "those" people, but I've had other experiences with this sort of thing. Are my expectations unreasonable, or do I just keep getting artists who don't treat their art like a serious business?
Feedback? Suggestions? 

Thanks, and look forward to hearing your thoughts! :3

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 13th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
Artists should stop being irresponsible and start communicating, and commissioners should stop nagging, making assumptions/flipping out. It's really quite obnoxious when a commissioner gets snippy without reason, and when regular updates are being supplied. I contact my commissioners if there's been a few weeks without an update, to let them know I haven't forgotten. Things get busy, but not busy enough that I can't offer them the common courtesy of knowing where the hell their art is.

Also, I do NOT take buttloads of commissions until I've finished the batches I have. I will open as I complete slots, and only then. Artists have to learn their limits and stop neglected older commissioners.

By the by, you aren't being a bad commissioner. This artist is being irresponsible and is either trying their best to ignore you because they don't want to deal with it, or because they're too guilty to face you. Either way, it's foolish and they need to pick up the ball. It's especially discouraging when "popular" artists get away with it simply because people will line up for commissions they probably won't get for years. I've dealt with that-- I had one artist blow me off for a couple of yeras, but I've also dealt with very professional-mannered ones. Anyway, end rambling. :)
Feb. 13th, 2009 02:58 am (UTC)
Feb. 13th, 2009 03:04 am (UTC)
i'm going to take a quote from a few entries in this community that i think sums up my thoughts: accepting money for work = real life. regardless of how big or small, whether it's a mural or a tiny icon of someone's anime fan character, there is still a transaction of goods/services for monetary compensation. maybe they don't do it full time, maybe it's just chump change to buy comics with, but it's still agreeing to do a job for pay and should be treated as such. once upon a time i didn't understand that, and boy i learned my lesson.

as a commissioner, you should ask for estimates as to how long this project should take, and then maybe request a due date even if you don't need it by a certain time. i've never subscribed to the "it'll get done when it gets done" attitude, as it can encourage laziness, procrastination, back logs, and habits which just allows work to pile up and get you into spots you can't easily get out from. yeah, other stuff happens, other things pop up, but as mentioned... taking someone's money for a service is real life too.

i can't say what something should or shouldn't take, time wise; that's up to the artist to determine. you have every right to know the status of your piece. i don't know what you should do in this particular instance, but in the future, ask for estimates and set some benchmarks. i actually prefer it when commissioners ask for updates, or have deadlines. it helps me keep on task. i think any artist serious about earning your money will be willing to work with you in setting some reasonable and flexible deadlines.
Feb. 13th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC)

Both sides should ALWAYS decided at the start what works for them when it comes to deadlines, preliminary sketches, and mailing. Even if an artist has to push back a deadline a little, they should keep in touch, show progress and generally treat a commission like srsbusiness.

Feb. 13th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
OK, just wanted to make sure I wasn't being insane/unreasonable. As I said, I'm TOTALLY cool with life getting crazed, and things not getting done OMGrightthisveryminute!, but it'd be nice to have the artists I commission keep in touch, even if it's just a quick "Hey, shit got insane, I'm running behind, will have your piece done as soon as I can." Hell, I've taken longer than I originally quoted someone on a commission, but I always try to keep in touch and keep them updated on my progress. Just so they know I'm not blowing them off.

Guess in the future I'll ask beforehand for a basic timeframe. I know everyone works at different paces, and maybe it'll help prevent misunderstandings.

Now if only I could get them to return my emails..... ;3
(no subject) - fenris_lorsrai - Feb. 13th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 13th, 2009 06:08 am (UTC)
here's my two cents.
Just to share some examples.

My best commissioner responded to status updates with precise comments on what he liked and didn't like in every status update I'd done for him. Feedback like that was incredibly helpful, and let me know not only that the work was approved to continue, but what could be adjusted in the next step to make it better.

My worst gave the horrible two word stroke of death to his work: "It's fine." Not only was I less happy with the end result, but to this day, I don't know what he thought of it. I was paid on time, and everything else went okay. But I never did hear from him to even confirm that it had arrived in the mail.

So what I'm trying to get at, is that it's really helpful to let the artist know not only where revisions might be needed, but also what you liked in the picture. If there's anything that stands out early on as particularly good looking, tell the artist. That way those things you liked will not be erased or changed later - leaving you to wonder what happened. It's also nice in the end to grant the artist the satisfaction of a job well done.

And as long as you're not sending daily or hourly emails begging for updates you're probably not really pestering an artist. Flooding their inbox isn't going to help, but it's not unreasonable to do as you're doing and politely ask for an update every few weeks or so. I'd personally consider that much better than a commissioner who disappeared and never got in contact with me again - no matter where I was in their piece. Just keep it civil and it shouldn't become a problem.
Feb. 13th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)

I will just say this communication is key. Both sides need to talk. Commissioners need to know what's going on and artists need to know what they're doing.

So long as you're polite, reasonably patient and willing to work with an artist? You're a good commissioner.

The artist for their part should check their messages regularly, try to respond to any about commissions within a week or so and keep their customers updated, while remaining polite.
Feb. 13th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
So silly question...? I hear a lot of really great advice and feedback from most of the people here, and those of you that have responded to my post bring up good points that I'll remember (like mentioning the specific parts of the art I like), and confirm a lot of my own thoughts. So where is this in the general fandom? Y'all seem to have a great mentality about money for work = an actual business transaction.....am I just commissioning the few artists that don't get that? If any of you do conventions, and don't finish a badge, sketch, what have you, and need to bring it home to finish....what is considered a reasonable amount of time before said item is done? Especially if you're doing other cons in the meantime and working on other art? Is the general consensus that it's OK to take on other work and bump it in front of paid for, but unfinished commissions? I mean, I'll put people on a list, and let them know how many pieces are in front of theirs in the que, but I try to finish the older commissions first. (unless it's a multi-step thing, like a sculpture that needs to bake/dry/etc, and I work on something else in between)
Feb. 14th, 2009 10:50 am (UTC)

Some people indeed don't respect the whole being paid for work = business transaction. You'll find most of the people in this community do, but outside? Well there's an awful lot of people who don't.
Feb. 13th, 2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
First: I think it's really important for the artist and the commissioner to say right upfront what they expect and how they work. I need to know if the commissioner needs or expects the work on a deadline or not. However I almost ALWAYS tell my commissioners right out front that I am in graduate school, and I ask for their patience for bigger projects. Now that said it's never taken me months to finish a piece that had been all bought and paid for, and NEVER without keeping touch with the commissioner in terms of sketch images and updates. (Heck I let them know that I keep status updates and queues right on my DA page constantly)

The things that can annoy me from a commissioner: After ordering art, knowing that the status is on my DA page, and knowing that I've alerted them that I have other commissions queued first: They CONSTANTLY contact me. We're talking I can't sign on furcadia or my DA or e-mail with some sort of inquiry about how the piece is coming. And we're talking a day or two after the commission started. I never ignore the e-mails of course and always reply, but it's very stressful.

Second, the constant 'changer.' I state in my terms that they have the one chance to change the sketch and approve, after that major changes will cost. However I've had commissions that between the time they commission me and the time the sketch is done, they are constantly sending me messages along the lines of "oh! and could you add ____ to the image too?" "Oh I just added ________ to the design as well" "I've changes the _____ markings to _______ and added a scarf!!" That drives me nuts. Because every time I think I get the sketch going, they change/add something. This not only messes with the composition of the art, but makes it much more time consuming. I may need to figure out how to add that to my terms soon ;)

So those are my big two things. ^^ Granted I never like dealing with rude commissioners, or people who treat the artists like they're personal art slaves once their paid. . . I think both sides deserve a respect. I'm lucky in that even when I have an annoying commissioner, the interactions are almost always friendly but straight forward.

<3 Kata
Feb. 13th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
Communication is key on both parties, but I do find that the artists tend to be the ones lacking in it from time to time. I can understand that people get busy, but taking sixty seconds out of your day every two weeks or so in order to give a commissioner a status update REALLY isn't that hard. I'm personally very wary of commissioning any artist that has crap like "don't bug me about status updates. It'll get done when it gets done" in their rules and guidelines for commissioning. I believe that a commissioner sending a message every two/three/four weeks in order to check on their commission's status is NOT unreasonable, despite what some artists will try to claim.

I and my fiance have been waiting on two (or more? I'm not sure what all he ordered) commissions since... last April from a very prominent artist in the furry fandom. In either June or July we got a very rough sketch for my character reference sheet and since then all we've gotten are excuses. Recently, it seems as though the artist has blocked my fiance's email address (or is just ignoring the emails) and, for whatever reason, hasn't answered a message he sent him over FurAffinity. Note - My fiance would only send a status inquiry once every two or three weeks, if not less frequently than that, so the artist can't try to claim he was "harassed" or any bull like that.

At this point, refund is not an option. We've been waiting far too long to just give up and ask for our money back. I think our particular situation shows what happens when communication is only one-sided. :\
Feb. 13th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
Hmm. Food for thought. And this definitely makes me want to be very clear on the wording for my own page regarding commission info. I don't mind giving updates, in fact, I prefer it. That at least gives me the chance to have a sketch approved before I go through the trouble of inking/coloring it and finding out for example that the person's character has that funny looking lightning bolt shaped scar on the OTHER side of their face. ;3

I think from now on I'll ask questions first, commission after. Will also keep my eyes on this community and my ear to the ground regarding other people's experiences with a given artist.

Live and learn. Though it's nice to get confirmation I'm not nuts, and don't have some whacked out sense of expectations.

Feb. 14th, 2009 07:48 pm (UTC)
I don't think your being a bad commissioner at all. I've been taking commissions for a short time now and what I like from my commissioners is relevant info on their wants and needs, refs and an address to send the finished piece to. So far I haven't ever taken more than a couple of weeks to finish a piece but I also haven't ever been heavily commissioned (2-3 at a time seems to be the most I get) I'm also super communicative with my clients so I invite questions and beg people to reply quickly to me so I can work more efficently.
So relax, your fine, and I hope it all works out for you.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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